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Many of our students are challenged by focusing on details in text or their own work. I love to recommend using Focus Tools as a way to provide support, and add some visual and tactile interaction to student work. In my workshops and webinars, I often share the following examples.
This week I received an email from Kirsten, a teacher at Holyoke High School. She had taken my suggestion to heart and created her own twist on the Focus Tool for teaching linear equations. I love that she could apply it to her own work in order to help students. Thanks, Kirsten, for all you do!
My inbox frequently contains questions about co-teaching, sent from teachers or administrators who are trying to become more inclusive. Recently, I received an email that included concerns raised by educators who want the best for the children they teach. With permission, here are the concerns and my responses.
1. IEP goals for students with disabilities are very specific. When these students are placed in the general education class, it is not possible to meet their needs or goals.
If the special education teacher is fully involved in planning and instructing, it is possible to meet student goals in a co-taught classroom. Some of the specially designed instruction (SDI) is built into whole group instruction and some of it is built into small group instruction. Co-teachers should plan for approximately 70% of their class time to be spent in small, teacher-led instructional groups.
It is important for the special education teacher to have the IEP goals readily accessible while planning and teaching, so that they can make the most of unexpected opportunities. They also need to be providing specially designed instruction on a daily basis. At times, I find that the specialist is underutilized in a co-taught classroom, more like a para-educator. Specialists need to self-advocate so that they can use their expertise in both planning and instruction.
2. Problems get worse as students move up through the grades. We see students falling behind, even in the resource room setting. They have a bigger learning gaps that can't be addressed in the general education classroom. Behaviors become a bigger issue, too.
It sure sounds as if self-contained or resource room services are not closing the gap, if the gap is getting bigger as students get older! Most schools do not have test scores that prove that pull-out is effective. Maybe it is time to try something different. The high expectations and curriculum depth that students access in a general education classroom can have a significant impact on their rate of learning. However, it is still crucial for students to receive small group instruction within the context of the co-taught classroom. In my experience, and those of many others, behaviors tend to improve in an effective co-taught class. Students have appropriate role models, there are four eyes instead of two, two bodies for proximity control, and the instruction is usually more engaging and responsive to student needs because of the different talents each teacher brings.
3. Many students are distracted in general education settings, especially students with ADHD. They are less distracted in a resource room setting.
It is true that we have students with attention issues. The role of the special education teacher is to instruct students in ways to self-monitor and manage their attention so that they can participate in society. Once they graduate, they will need to work in environments that include distractions, and they will not have a teacher right by their side. In addition, most students with disabilities do not generalize their learning well - so learning an attention strategy in a resource room is not likely to transfer to a general education setting. Finally, the co-teachers must plan for accommodations. What is the best seating location? Who are the best partners for small group work? Have we taught the class a volume control strategy? Are we using focusing tools such as highlighter tape, work masks, ear buds, etc.? Are we teaching students self-monitoring and self-advocacy skills? Before deciding students "can't" we must be confident that we have provided all the services we can.
It's springtime and the best co-teachers are getting ready for a year-end evaluation of their co-teaching efforts. Use one or more of the following ideas to gather information about the strengths and needs of your program.
For more ideas on sustaining and growing your co-teaching program, join me in Chicago in July for the National Train-the-Trainer Institute, Co-Teaching that Works!
When I was a kid, my mother used to try to get me out from under her feet by giving me a list of items to find outside. I would return an hour or so later with an odd collection of heart shaped rocks, twigs that looked like letters, and dead bugs. (It would take me quite awhile to gather the courage to pick up the dead bugs, and my mother was banking on that!)
Thanks to GooseChase for developing a much more exciting, technology-based version of a scavenger hunt!
Each GooseChase game has a list of missions that students complete. You can either choose from their large bank of missions or create your own. When creating your own, you get to describe each one and assign a point value. Finally, you can create up to three teams in the free version, giving them whatever name you’d like and setting up a privacy passcode for each team.
Last week, I used GooseChase with a group of about 50 adults who were interested in improving their teaching and presenting skills. They were divided into 3 teams (Red, Blue, Green) and had a list of four missions to complete. For example, one mission was to find research on the connection between movement and learning, snap a photo of it and submit the photo. Another was to take video of a movement that might be incorporated into a training session for adults.
Participants were highly engaged, quickly moving through the missions as they tried to beat their colleagues on other teams. And, best of all, they were generating content for their own learning, rather than being spoon-fed by the “sage on the stage.” I can see this being a highly motivating activity for students. At least one student per team will need access to a wi-fi enabled device with a camera and the GooseChase app pre-loaded.
Thanks to Richard Byrne for sharing this app on his site, Free Technology for Teachers. If you don't follow him, you should!
Developing specially designed instruction (SDI) for math lessons can sometimes feel like a challenge. Special education teachers frequently ask me for examples of what this might look like in an inclusive classroom when we are using the general education curriculum.
I use seven key questions to help me plan (see my list here). Once I know which IEP goals are related to the lesson, I consider ways that I can teach students a learning strategy that will be transferrable to other lessons and settings.
At a recent co-planning session with a teacher, we analyzed a lesson that teaches students to use comparison bars as a strategy for solving addition and subtraction story problems. As I thought about my Question #5 – What is the metacognitive process a successful learner might use? – I realized that as a learner, I would want to have a step-by-step process in a concrete form. While the lesson expected the teachers to talk the students through the process, there was no visual of the process, nothing explicit or concrete. I have also found it very beneficial to teach students that when they are confused about a process, they can create a clear, step-by-step list of what to do. (This makes this skill more generalizable.)
Based on our discussion, we quickly listed the steps, then reduced the word count and added some visuals. We cleaned it up a bit so that we could print out cards for each student that might benefit.
To make this more powerful SDI, co-teachers can guide students to see how and when they can develop their own process cards to help with complex tasks. If this is done throughout the year, students will become independent and have a skill that can generalize into other situations.
How do you decide what is most important in a passage? Most of us do it without thinking. We have somehow picked up the ability through the years, without being aware of the metacognitive process in which we engage.
For some students, we need to be very explicit about this thinking, making it visible and concrete for them. The BullsEye Strategy is one approach that has been successful for me.
When teachers incorporate movement into a lesson, students are more engaged and the content becomes more memorable. Recently, I was talking with teachers in South Carolina about how I have used the game “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. Kalli Queen, 5th grade teacher at Mount Lebanon Elementary School shared this clever idea for how to use the game to introduce the branches of government.
1. Briefly review rock, paper, scissors and play once altogether (to ensure no "extras" are used)
2. Have students pair off randomly and play rock, paper, scissors for 2 minutes, recording their results each round. They must tally which category wins each time in a triple t-chart.
3. After the time is up, have students total their tallies for each category. They then meet with two other pairs (creating groups of 6) and compare their totals. The new groups then combine their totals (making it easier to combine a class total).
4. Collect the group totals into a class total and create a quick bar graph on the board.
5. Have the class discuss results, guiding the discussion toward how no single category outshines the others; all are within a reasonable margin of the others.
6. Explain that this is how checks and balances work (no single branch of government is more powerful than the others--all branches have power over one but must succumb to the other i.e., rock can beat scissors, but not rock).
7. With titles of the three branches displayed, have the class brainstorm how each category of the game relates to the government. Guide them to agree to the following:
rock = executive branch "the buck stops here" (move hand down in a fist to bang on desk, saying "executive")
paper = legislative branch--writing and passing the laws (hold up one hand as if it were paper and act as if you were writing on it with the other hand)
scissors = judicial branch--cutting up anything unconstitutional (hold up one hand as if it were paper and act as if you were cutting it with the other hand)
Thanks to Kalli for sharing this idea. Students who struggle are lucky to have teachers, like Kalli, who develop creative ways to help comprehension and memory.
Some students struggle with showing their knowledge on comprehension assessments, simply because they don't understand key words in the question. Depending on what the purpose of the assessment is, teachers might find it appropriate to provide students with a Clue Word Tip Sheet. If the tip sheet is used frequently during class discussions, practice assessments and homework assignments, students will improve their understanding of these clue words. While they may not be able to use the tip sheet during all assessments, regular practice will increase the likelihood of skill transfer.
Click here for my Clue Word Tip Sheet.
Here's a tip for formatting your matching tests so that all students might be more successful.
The traditional matching test looks like the picture below, with the shorter material on the left, the longer material on the right. In order to take this test, a slow reader must read one word on the left and a list of dense material on the right.
If the test is formatted the opposite way - longer, more dense material on the left and the short material on the right, a student now reads one definition and a list of words. This is a much faster test to take!
Today at a workshop I had a teacher get very excited about a simple idea I've used for years. While it is an older idea, it works so well I decided to mention it again on my blog. I call it "Work Masks."
All you need to do is cut the front covers of file folders into thirds. Students slide their worksheet, test or paper into the file folder and uncover only one third at a time. This decreases the visual processing load, as well as the motivational load - ("I can't do all this!") - so that students persevere with the work. I usually roll it out by having all students use it the first day, and then allowing students to choose to use it on following days.
Anne M. Beninghof
Anne's mission is to improve instruction through collaboration and the sharing of creative, practical ideas for educators.
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